I’m personally not a great fan of Indian or Pakistani desserts as they tend to be a bit on the sweet side for me. However, this festive dish, translated directly as “milk and dates” in Persian, is probably the only dessert I have loved ever since I was a child. It is a rich and creamy milk pudding made with fine vermicelli, soft dates and crunchy almonds, all oozing with the subtle fragrance of rose or kewra flower. Prepared in many Muslim households in Afghanistan, the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, this dish takes a prime place on the breakfast table to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and the three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr. It’s a delicious and comforting pudding that can be served hot or cold, but I love it piping hot. I’ve even been known to rustle it up during the cold winter months too!
Eid al-Fitr: sheer khurma (milk and date pudding)
Prep time: 50 min
Serves: 5–6 people
- 500ml whole milk
- 3–4 green cardamoms, skin removed and black seeds crushed
- sugar, to taste
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- handful of fine wheat vermicelli
- 150ml evaporated milk
- 50ml single cream (optional)
- 5–6 soft dates, chopped
- 10–15 almonds, chopped, without skin, plus extra for serving
- 1 tbsp rose water or kewra water, for fragrance
- Pour boiling water over the almonds to loosen the skin.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, pour in the whole milk and warm up slowly. Add the crushed cardamom seeds and sugar to taste. Stir continuously until it reaches boiling point and the liquid reduces.
- In another pan, add the butter, heat up and stir in the dry vermicelli. Stir gently until it’s golden brown in colour, then remove and set aside. Be careful not to burn it!
- Pour the evaporated milk and single cream (if you want a richer pudding) into the milk mixture and keep stirring on low heat for 5 min.
- Add the chopped dates and continuously stir the mixture so that it doesn’t stick to the pan. Leave on very low heat.
- Add the toasted vermicelli to the milk mixture and stir, simmering for 5 min.
- Add the chopped almonds (which you can just crisp up in a hot, dry pan if you like beforehand).
- The sheer is now ready to be served in a bowl, hot or chilled, with a sprinkling of extra chopped or sliced almonds.
- You can use a variety of toasted and chopped nuts – pistachios give a nice colour contrast.
- Dried fine vermicelli, rose/kewra water and green cardamom are available at Indian/Pakistani grocery stores.
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